Right-hander Luke Farrell made a spot start on Monday night and struggled. Is this evidence of the Chicago Cubs’ biggest weakness this season?
After a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday created the need for a spot starter, the Cubs granted right-hander Luke Farrell the opportunity to step up in Monday’s opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
With the rotation still somewhat in flux, it would have meant a lot for Farrell to step up. He could have proven the team boasts more pitching depth than meets the eye. Instead, a rough outing for the Northwestern grad may have broadcast the Cubs’ most glaring weakness to the rest of the league.
This one left a bad taste in your mouth
In the first inning of Monday’s game, Farrell gave up five runs. Two of those runs came on a double from Arizona catcher Jeff Mathis, who is currently batting a measly .200 on the season. The only bright spot in the inning may have been that Farrell retired Paul Goldschmidt. In the second inning, though, Goldschmidt proceeded to launch a solo homer off Farrell to make it 6-0.
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Farrell exited after 3 1/3 innings of work. After Brian Duensing and Randy Rosario pitched a combined 4 1/3 innings, Joe Maddon turned to position players for the second time since the start of the second half. After Victor Caratini worked a scoreless inning, Anthony Rizzo fulfilled his dream by getting the final out in the top of the ninth.
Signs of larger issues
Sure, it’s just one game, and the Cubs still have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Brewers. Farrell’s outing is not the end of the world. But it does show that despite having the best record in the National League, the Cubs still have some shortcomings to address.
First, Farrell’s outing further proves the Cubs’ current rotation has almost no room for injury or error. Mike Montgomery is already a regular member of the rotation with Darvish out, and no one is expecting him to be back very soon—if at all. So if one of the Cubs five starters were to get hurt, would Farrell be the only other starting option?
Based on Monday’s outing, that would be cause for concern. He has been strong out of the bullpen, with a 3.20 ERA as a reliever, but in two spot starts, he is 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA.
Farrell’s outing also showed something about the need for more depth in the Cubs bullpen. Yes, the Cubs were down 7-1, a generally insurmountable deficit. Still, that would not normally merit a position player pitching situation. The Cubs bullpen could use some help. That could be in the form of another shutdown reliever to add to the circle of trust in the pen.
The need for trades
The Cubs may not have the assets to make a big deal before the July 31 trade deadline, but they definitely still have some needs. While a starter may not be what they pursue, Farrell’s outing on Monday showed that it would help to have another guy to turn to for spot starts or in case of injury.
But the larger problem may be the bullpen, and it appears that is what Theo and Co. may be addressing. The bullpen has been used early and often, and Monday’s use of position players yet again showed that that fatigue may be starting to have an effect. Another bullpen arm could really benefit the relievers as they continue through the rest of the season and a hopefully long October.
With 162 games in the baseball season, one game is never the end of the world. However, Monday’s short outing from Farrell seemed to display some of the concerns with this Cubs team that need to—and likely will—be addressed in the coming weeks.